The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new standard defining the term 'gluten free', providing a uniform standard definition for voluntary food labelling.
The regulation is designed to help the nearly three million Americans who suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can only be managed by consuming a diet that is gluten free.
FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg MD said that the agency's new definition of gluten free will help people with coeliac disease to make better food choices and allow them to manage their health better.
"Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating coeliac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life," she said.
The FDA has standardised the meaning of gluten free across the food industry. Products labelled gluten free must now contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
The standard also requires foods which currently claim 'no gluten' or to be 'free of gluten' or 'without gluten' to meet the 'gluten-free' definition.
Food manufacturers will be given one year to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements. Many foods that are labelled 'gluten-free' at present may be able to meet the new federal definition already.
FDA foods and veterinary medicine deputy commissioner Michael Taylor said: "We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with coeliac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of gluten free."
Image: US FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Photo: courtesy of Food and Drug Administration.